Watching History Unfold

vikings 1Vampires get to watch history go by.  Just because they live for decades and centuries, they witness the unfolding of human affairs and can observe the changing of society over time.  There is a lot about a vampire’s life that would be utterly miserable, including watching humans you love wither and die as time rolls inexorably onwards, but this – the passing of history—I think this is one fact of vampire longevity for which I hate their guts.

Yeah, I’m a history nut, can you tell?

Here, on my blog, I get to chat about significant historical events when their anniversaries occur.

vikings 2Consider one of the most significant events in British history:  The invasion of William the Conqueror and the Norman claim of the English throne, in 1066.  This was the beginning of William’s campaign to gain England for himself, and it would end with the infamous Battle of Hastings on October 14.  It was the last successful invasion of the British Isles.

I personally first heard about the Battle of Hastings and the year, 1066, in primary school.  The date is engraved in my memory.

The Normans conquered and held Britain, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with iron and bloody control for another seventy years, until the Plantagenet dynasty took the throne in 1135 during the Wars of the Roses.  The Plantagenets were descendent from the Normans.

The Battle of Hastings

The Battle of Hastings

But while Norman control of England was short, the influence and change they wrought was massive.  The Normans nearly obliterated all traces of Anglo-Saxon influence and culture from the land.  Latin became the official language of literature and court documents, replacing Old English, and Norman French became the common spoken language.

Because of this, Old English is now a dead language, understood and spoken by only a handful of scholars around the world.  All Anglo Saxon landowners and upper-class citizens were systematically and thoroughly stripped of their lands, possessions and titles, creating a social system sharply divided by race – landed, rich Normans and landless, desperate Anglo-Saxons, dependent upon their Norman overlords for largesse and shelter.

There was one positive change the Normans brought:  The Anglo-Saxon system of slavery was dismantled and all slaves freed.  One could argue that the serf system that replaced it was little better, but serfs were free men.

The really interesting fact in all this?  You’d have thought that an invading king bringing such an army into England would have roused the Anglo Saxons (who had invaded Britain themselves, six centuries before) to rally and beat back the invaders with their legendary ferocity and strength.

vikings 4But King William landed at Pevensey in Sussex, and no one lifted a finger to stop him.  It wasn’t until he built himself a castle (at Hastings) and started raiding nearby villages and towns that anyone took notice of his activities and stirred themselves to defence.

I have to wonder if a vampire who had lived a century or two who saw William and his men riding across the plains from Pevensey wouldn’t have put it together a lot faster than his human friends, and known the country was in deep trouble.  The benefit of living through enough history is that it gives you extraordinary hindsight…

…if you’re smart enough to use it.  😉

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